03 Numbers

What are 03 telephone numbers?

03 numbers (UK telephone numbers beginning with the 03 prefix) are national, non-geographic numbers (as are 0800 numbers for example) and are charged at local rate (like 01 and 02 (geographic) numbers).

  • 03 numbers are non-geographic numbers, as opposed to 01 and 02 prefixed numbers which are geographic numbers (ie, assigned to specific geographical territories within the UK).
  • 03 numbers are charged at local-rate, as opposed to 0800 numbers which are completely free to call, or 0870 numbers which are charged at business rate (13p per minute plus access charge).

Different types of 03 numbers

Within the 03 number range are various different types of numbers, with some having minor differences to others. These include:

  • 0300 numbers which are reserved for charities and government organisations.
  • 0330 & 0333 numbers which are still very memorable.
  • 0344, 0345, 0370, 0371 & 0372 numbers which were made to mimic their 08 prefix equivalents, ie 0844, 0845, 0870, 0871 & 0872 numbers; thus helping companies to convert their customer service helplines from a commission-generating model based on business-rate phone numbers (prefixed 084 & 087) to local-rate, mobile-friendly 03 equivalents in order to conform to new laws brought into force by Ofcom on 1st July 2015. These new laws meant that post-sale customer service helplines became officially forbidden from being exclusively accessible via revenue-generating numbers. As of July 2015 all after-sales customer service helplines are legally required to use local-rate (01, 02, 03) or freephone (0800, 0808, etc) numbers.

Popular examples of 03 numbers

Examples of popular 03 numbers include:

  • 0300 790 6801 – This is the official contact number for DVLA driver licensing enquiries. This number also holds the record for being the most popular of all 03 phone numbers in 2016! The DVLA is the most popular UK government contact, and their driver licensing enquiries helpline is their most popular helpline.
  • 0344 241 1653 – This is the most heavily advertised customer service contact number for Sky, suitable for Sky TV and broadband enquiries from existing customers. It’s one of the most heavily used 03 numbers in the UK because Sky’s customer service helplines are the most in-demand helplines of commercial companies in the UK today. The popularity of this number is only mitigated by the presence of various popular alternative numbers, such as Sky’s popular freephone customer service number 0800 151 2747.
  • 0330 123 4055 – This is one of the more popular numbers for Tesco’s main customer service helpline, but like with Sky, its popularity is somewhat undermined by the existence and promotion of an equivalent freephone number, 0800 50 55 55.

Cost of calling 03 numbers

In the UK, 03 numbers cost the same as 01 and 02 numbers. The exact cost varies as it’s set by your phone network / service provider, but the law enforces that all 03 numbers should be charged by your phone company at exactly the same rate as all geographic 01 & 02 numbers are charged – so whichever price your current phone company sets for you to call 01 and 02 numbers, the same cost applies to 03 numbers (so long as you’re using the same phone on the same tariff etc).

Are 03 numbers free to call?

03 numbers are not freephone numbers like 0800, 0808 and 0500 numbers are. However, 03 numbers are compatible with most mobile phones’ (and landline phones’) free inclusive minutes allowance offers, so if you don’t expect to use up all your free minutes, you can consider your call to an 03 number effectively free. Most mobile phone contracts and tariffs include free minutes allowances on a per-month (as per contract) or per-topup basis. These free minutes can be spent calling 03 numbers just as easily as they can be spent using 01 and 02 numbers.

Other numbers, including those beginning 084, 087, 09 and 118, are exempt from being callable for free under inclusive free minutes offers because the cost of calling these numbers is higher than the cost of calling 01, 02 and 03 numbers – at least it’s higher for your phone company because a percentage of the call cost is rebated as a commission to the company who owns the number. This rebate rule applies to all 084 numbers (low-cost ‘LoCall’ business rate numbers) and 087 numbers (higher-end business rate numbers) as well as 09 and 118 numbers (premium-rate numbers) which can be far more expensive.

WHY buy, HOW to buy and WHERE to buy 03 numbers

If you run a company which wants a memorable, mobile-friendly 03 telephone number that forwards calls to the geographic landline of your office, reception or call centre, and tracks call stats in the process, without costing the earth like freephone numbers do, you’re not alone.

Although the boom of 03 numbers has passed due to traditional freephone numbers (0800 & 0808) becoming mobile friendly in 2015, not every company wants to foot the bill of every call, so 03 numbers are a popular alternative to freephone numbers.

The regulations which came into force in 2015 required that all UK organisations refrain from using premium-rate (and business-rate) numbers such as 084, 087 and 09 numbers for the purposes of after-sales customer service, so this leaves customer service callcentres only three options:

  1. Have a freephone number, such as an 0800 or 0808 number, and pay huge fees to cover the cost of every call.
  2. Stick with your default landline number, which may not be very memorable, and may be a problem if you ever move office/building and wish to retain ownership of your old number.
  3. Purchase a non-geographic number, that meets the legal requirements of costing no more than standard rate, ie an 03 number. These numbers typically come as part of a package with a portal where you can login to view your call statistics, manage pre-recorded messages, menu systems, call recordings and so much more.

What’s the down side?

The downside to using 03 numbers is that the audio may be slightly less clear than direct numbers, because the calls are routed around a bit further, but if you have a great telecoms supplier this shouldn’t be a problem. Another downside of course is you won’t be generating revenue from your calls (it is illegal now anyway, at least for after-sales service, so don’t worry about that). But you’re also not paying for all the calls like you would be if you invested in a freephone helpline, so it’s a cost-effective middleground that keeps you on the right side of the law.

If you’re not already convinced that an 03 number is the way to go, please visit one of the recommended telecoms companies below to learn more about the benefits of getting an 03 number for your company.

Where to buy 03 numbers

Option 1: You can purchase 03 numbers directly from BT Business here: business.bt.com/products/voice/numbers/.

Due to the history of BT being a government organisation, every phone call in the UK still goes through BT’s systems, even when the number is managed by their high street competitors. Therefore, we recommend you purchase your 03 numbers directly from BT if you are a big business with high tech capabilities, a high level of independence, and seeking to minimise the level of tiers between you and the source. You will need to have a high level of technological capability and independence in order to get by, because BT Business is used to dealing with large telecoms operators who then readily take care of non telecoms industry clientele themselves. If you don’t represent a telecoms company or a huge, highly capable organisation, you may be best purchasing from a more customer-centric service provider such as your local telecoms supplier or the one which offers you the best tailored support. To find our more or make a purchase from BT Business, you’ll need to call them or fill in the form on their website. You can request a call back in case that’s easier.

Option 2: There are various small to medium sized telecoms companies which specialise in helping people who are not already familiar with the industry to get setup on suitable systems. One such supplier is Number Supermarket which specialises in making things easy for you, whether you’re new or experienced in the telecoms industry. They have an advanced reporting interface and very helpful customer service staff ready to ensure you have no trouble getting set up with 03 numbers on their system, migrating your numbers, installing advanced services, etc. To make a purchase it’s as easy as going to their website, picking a number you like, and signing up. They will then be in touch to help you get started. If you have any questions or difficulties, give them a call during office hours on their own 03 number!